The Perils Of Doggie Kisses

The world is filled with folk myths, and the veterinary exam room is no exception.

Jenny brought in her 4-month-old French bulldog for his last set of puppy shots. Roger was very adorable and portrayed the lovable personality that is inherent in his breed. We covered teeth brushing, frequency of baths and the proper amount of exercise, as well as coprophagia, the disturbing habit of eating poop. I assured Jenny that most puppies outgrow this gnarly behavior.

As Jenny handed Roger over to me, I was immediately bombarded with doggy kisses. As a rule of thumb, I welcome the friendly licks to my face, as it is the customary greeting of many dogs. Refusing these laps would be akin to holding back from shaking a person’s hand. What happened next though, made me recoil and hand Roger to my assistant. Roger’s tongue entered my mouth and scraped the bottom of my two front teeth.

Trying my best to continue smiling, I announced, “Excuse me for a moment;

I need to rinse my mouth.”

“Doc, did my cutie patootie give you a French kiss?” asked Jenny. “He does it all the time, but don’t worry. Remember, a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s mouth.”

There it was. The folk myth that is often said but definitely not true. I proceeded to explain to Jenny that dogs and humans have bacteria in their mouths that are too numerous to count and I was not aware of any scientific study proving that dogs have “cleaner” mouths.

If we were to dissect this urban legend further, the term cleaner is relative. It’s like saying dog poop is cleaner than human poop. Even if it were true, it’s still poop. I’ve seen too many infected dog-bite wounds to concede that dogs have clean mouths. Plus, dogs regularly lick body parts and they also eat things off the ground.

In Roger’s case, he enjoys the taste of his own feces. Because of this, bacteria become just one of the concerns. It is conceivable that parasites like roundworms or giardia could be transmitted as well.

By the time I was done with my monologue, “Ode to French-kissing Dogs,” I realized that I hadn’t rinsed my mouth as I had planned. I found myself hoping that Roger didn’t just enjoy a warm “snack” prior to our appointment.

Oh, well, it wasn’t the first time this had happened to me. I guess it comes with the territory of living on The Wild Side.